You Can’t Do Everything. So Do Something.

What’s on your priority list?

Do you have one?

This weekend I spent a bit of time compiling mine for the summer.

Too many choices, not enough time— forced me into it, but it turned out to be very satisfying.

I did mine in two parts. Work and Play.

First I had to decide those were my main two priorities.

I did not allow myself to say, “I’ll call you later on that.” I had to decide NOW.

I know that flies in the face of mobile phone, e-mail, text, tweet, get every piece of information possible, procrastination done in the name of high levels of reliable prediction…and never disconnecting from work, but that’s what I did.

A light came on.

I’ve been waiting on other people to make their choices, before I make mine.

They’re not playing by the same rules. They are happy to say, “I’ll get back to you on that.” (Most of them don’t get back to me, and that seems to be OK with them).

So I spend my life waiting and not getting the things done I want to get done.

And if there are people waiting on me, the procrastination and do-nothing circle grows and grows and…the next thing you know we’re worrying more about who uses the bathroom than getting our roads fixed.

See how that doesn’t work?

You’ll never get it all, and half the people think saying they’ll get back to you means they’ve handled the problem.  The polls don’t really know who’s going to be nominated anyway, and if you have to go to the bathroom bad enough you’ll figure out someplace to go.

Do something. Take a risk. Jump off. Don’t wait for all the information… or for everyone to get back to you.

Set your own priorities and then do something with them.

Following Through

Last November I put a story in this space about a young major league baseball pitcher who was given a chance to finish a world series game. It ended in disaster for him and his team; at least it seemed so on that day, in that ball park.

This coming weekend, major league baseball will begin another season.

That same young pitcher will be given the ball on opening day. He’ll throw the first pitch of the season for his team. It’s a new year,  a new start and a new chance to do what he was meant to do, PLAY baseball.

Not a disaster— Joy. Support. Loyalty. Acknowledgement. Trust. Teamwork. Strength.— I don’t know,  maybe love.

That young pitcher could have sat down over the winter and given up. The team’s manager could have forgotten why he made the decision to leave the young man in the game last fall. His teammates might have shunned him. The fans might have run the pitcher and the manger out of town in proverbial tar and feathers.

But they didn’t.

It would appear that everybody knew something about talent, and drive, and trust, and longer-term thinking, and being human.

This weekend, things could, and will, go in a million different directions.

No way of knowing what will happen after the umpire cries “PLAY BALL!”

But aren’t you glad that pitcher will be out there?

 

It’s just a game after all.

 

 

Extra Day.

Leap day.

What will you do with an extra day?

Here’s a baker’s dozen thoughts.

  • Turn off your phone. (Or wait until March 5 and join in the National Day of Unplugging if you’re positive you’ll still be here)
  • Talk to your kids without interruption. No TV or other devices running at the same time. Look at their eyes and faces and remember that your extra day only happens every four years and you might not be here for the next one
  • Go outside and listen and see what’s really going on
  • Call your mom and tell her she did some good things too.
  • Clean up a space you spend time in. (After two weeks on the floor even dirty socks disappear. Find the dirty socks and pick ’em up)
  • See if there is something small to you, that is big to somebody else. Do the small thing
  • Write a “hard copy” note to somebody. Remember letters, or discover them. It’s the new way to make an impact with the original social media.
  • Learn something new to you. Because there isn’t much new being ginned up out of thin air
  • Ask someone -more than twenty years older than you- what they think about most
  • Ask someone-twenty years younger than you-what they think about most
  • Give your kids or employees less choice. (They want direction not 42 kinds of breakfast cereal)
  • Drink your coffee out of a real china cup while sitting down at a table without a computer or phone on it
  • Remember, sooner or later, you will wish you had another day

Next month: Listening.

You Always…

I was having a “discussion” with my best friend. We both were less than calm and it always amazes me what comes rumbling out of my mouth under those circumstances.

I made a very broad, sweeping statement; something beginning with, “Well, you always…and ending with something like… get a lot of joy out of pushing chicks in the creek.”

She, being a much better arguer than I, pointed out a series of very nice, very valuable things she does regularly. This blew my “you always” statement right out of the water.

She was right.  She doesn’t ALWAYS do anything; especially the stuff I find particularly  irritating. In fact, she’s usually doing great stuff for me.

How come that part doesn’t come rumbling out of my mouth when we’re discussing things?

I haven’t been able to come up with more than a handful of times, ever in maybe 50 years, when I started a sentence with “you always” that wasn’t followed by a negative.

My thought is, if I quit saying, “you always”, I’ll stop coming up with the negatives to complain about and start asking for what I really want.

It will help me remember the good stuff that I’ve come to take for granted.

I might even do a better job of telling people what I appreciate about them. Some would call that acknowledging, versus just popping off a hollow complement designed to maneuver someone into doing what I want.

Think of someone who works with, or for, you. What is it they ALWAYS do?

 

 

Grateful

Hope you all had a great time last week.

I did. I was knee-deep in turkey and up to my ears in Dawnya’s famous feather rolls. We had a small gathering, just four of us.

I didn’t have any deadlines, or pressure to perform, or feel that I had to remodel the house before anybody showed up.

The potatoes were strange, kinda sticky. We blamed the spuds; not the cook, or the recipe.

No calamities, no bickering, no failures.

We paired the food with some pretty good wine. After dinner we did the dishes and vegged in front of the woodstove for a couple of hours, forgetting that we’d said we’d head over to the neighbors later for pie and coffee.

No sweat. The neighbor is a true neighbor and he’ll forgive me. And I’d certainly do the same for him— especially since I had his ladder leaned up against my house for most of last summer.

I’m grateful. I give thanks to everyone who helped me, or let me help them, during the past year.

If you’d like to be satisfied, even for just a little while, it’s a good thing to consider.

What are you grateful for?

 

Next month, Is There A Request in There Somewhere?

A Sense of Wonder – It IS How You Play the Game

I’m a late season baseball fan.

Hate to admit it, but baseball season coincides with my favorite pastime, fly-fishing. So I can’t pay any real attention to America’s favorite pastime until it gets too cold to fish for trout.

But once the playoffs start and then the World Series gets underway, I’m in.

I remembered why last night.

Now before the Mets’ fans get upset, and the Royals’ fans feel smug, understand that this had nothing to do with which teams were playing.

What happened was: the NY Mets who had to win the game to keep their Series hopes alive, were leading The Kansas City Royals, 2—0, going into the top of the 9th, at home in New York.

The Mets’ pitcher had been stellar, pitching 8 shutout innings, dominating the Royals’ hitters.

To begin the 9th, The Mets’ manager would pull the pitcher and replace him with his “finisher”, a fresh new pitcher, who only had to get three men out for the Mets to win.

The smart decision to make; some would say the only decision that made sense.

Only thing was, the original pitcher didn’t want to be pulled. He wanted to finish the game, pitch the whole nine innings and be the winner. He persuaded the manager to let stay in (we got to see the whole discussion on replay about 40 times).

And the manager said,”OK, you deserve the shot.” (Or something to that effect).

The stellar pitcher went in, with the network announcers singing his praises to high heaven, and proceeded to walk the first batter and give up a double to the next hitter. Now the score is 2-1.

The manager immediately sent the stellar pitcher to the showers and brought in the “finisher”, who pitched hard, but allowed another run to cross home-plate, tying the score and sending the game into extra innings.

The bench of the Royals went berserk—millionaire twenty and thirty-somethings with bulging wads of pink gum, weird tattoos, funky haircuts, unkempt beards, gold chains and baggy uniforms, forgot themselves and became kids playing baseball again.

The sense of wonder and joy for the game came back.

And on the other side of the field, the same demographic sat glumly in the dugout, forgetting the cars and the money and the endorsements, only wanting to win; to have the happy ending they had dreamed about only minutes earlier, when their pitcher had convinced the sixty-something manager to leave him in the game.

The sense of wonder came back, no joy in Mudville, but the sense of being alive and in the game was back.

The Royals proceeded to score five more runs, in the 12th inning; winning their first World Championship in 30 years. The go-ahead run was driven in by a young man who had never batted in a post season game before stepping up to the plate last night.

And my sense of wonder returned— at a manager giving his star pitcher the opportunity he deserved—knowing that there is risk attached to playing— and that the rapid switch in fortunes that life holds, had appeared as if summoned by some unseen power— just to let everyone know we’re not in charge, and anything is possible.

It was a game. And from the Universe’s point of view, everybody who was a part of it won.

How are you playing in your game?

Next Month: Thanksgiving.

Failure Scares You

What scares you?

I’m not talking about flying, or snakes, tight enclosed spaces, or a trip to the dentist.

You’ll just have to deal with that.

I’m talking about the everyday stuff you’re afraid of.

Being wrong. Looking stupid. Making a mistake. Missing out. Being watched. Failing.

The greatest fear (in America anyway) has been, and continues to be, public speaking. Literally feared more than death. It means failing in public; and it is huge.

You have this fear of public failure built in. So if you make your living around other people, you’re on the defense. You’re ready to duck and cover when the prospect of making a hugely public mistake appears…and the higher you get on the ladder, the greater the perceived risk.

As a result you won’t let go. You try to do more and more and MORE. As you avoid making a mistake you become less and less, and LESS productive and you can unintentionally cripple all the people around you as you refuse to give them the space to make their own mistakes and learn something in the process.

I see it all the time with clients (and myself).

So how can you give yourself, and the people who work for you, the permission to get the benefit of “failing”publicly?

Maybe instead of going through the same old much-hated goal setting program you’re forced to do every year, you could include a little discussion…that means give and take conversation– in person–around what you and your folks think constitutes a failure for them, you, your business unit, and your company.

Sure, talk about success, but doesn’t that always get translated into a number? What about learning? What about innovation that comes from unintended results; or fixing things on the fly. How can you know what’s better if you can’t see what doesn’t work?

And then there’s also getting people together, physically, so they can exchange those ideas of what is working– and more dramatic– the bad ideas that seemed so good at the time, but didn’t work in practice.

If that sounds negative— maybe talking about failure in public is something we all should get used to. Who knows, maybe you’ll all get together talk about what went right and wrong and build some trust and vulnerability into your lives?

We all fail.  There’s nothing like telling one’s work compatriots about our own failures to meld individuals into a team. Permission to fail takes away the risk.

You’ll all learn something valuable.

Next Month. Where’s Your Sense of Wonder?

You Weren’t Designed to Be Happy All the Time

When I talk to clients about what they want, there is one universal answer, “Gee I don’t know; to be happy I guess.”

Why do you think there is always that “I guess” on the end of that phrase?

I think it’s because we’ve been told, for all our lives, by everything we see, that we’re supposed to be happy all the time.

If we can just get our weight under control, and our smiles bright, and our future ensured by being insured, we will reach some state of happiness that never fades. We can actually hit a spot where we’re always beyond OK.

But we all say, “I guess”, because deep down we know we weren’t designed to be happy all the time.

I once heard an interview with singer-songwriter- genius, Bill Joel, in which he said something like, “As you get older you figure out that things being just OK is pretty wonderful.”

The innocent man has it figured out. We weren’t designed to be happy all the time.

If you operate from the premise that there’s something wrong with you if you’re not continually, deliriously happy, you’re doomed to failure…and you won’t try the things that will lead to learning, fulfillment, and excitement. You’ll live in fear…of not being happy. And when you live in fear, you’re not even OK.

So, lose the fear. Stretch your limits of happiness and accept that your ups and downs are a healthy part of life. Peaks and valleys are part of the deal.

You’re OK and that in itself is pretty wonderful.

Next month: What Scares You?

Grab Some Time for Yourself.

One thing my clients talk about most is time, or more accurately, the lack of it.

It’s a cruel joke of our wild desire for more and faster communication technology— the more ways we have, the more time it robs from us; we can’t NOT use it all because we might miss out on some vital piece of information. In fact by using it all we can’t possibly process the never-ending stream that crosses before our eyes and ears every minute of every waking hour.

My clients tell me that about 20 percent of the e-mails they get are relevant to anything. The rest is…well you know what it is. Yet we continue to send and receive this stuff at an increasing rate.

And texting? Well don’t get me started. I have fantasies about what I might do to the next person that sends me a “Where are you AT?” message. What are these people thinking OF?

So, what to do?

Try this.

When you get up tomorrow, turn it ALL off for an hour. The phone, the e-mail, the TV, the radio, even the newspaper, if you happen to get one. Turn it all off.

Don’t talk to anybody. Don’t listen to anybody. Go out on your deck, or down in your den, or up in your music room and just be still.

Be conscious of what you are thinking and what you want to do with a day, a day that always has great possibilities, and a day that could always be the last one you have.

Take some time to get back to something real. Take that time for yourself, every day.

It’s only an hour. The next tweet, or text, or e-mail can wait.

Those things are not your life.

You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish, and the ideas you can generate, if you just grab some time for yourself.

And don’t tell me you don’t have time to do it. You’ve got all the time you have left.

Next Month: Coffee and Cigarettes.

What Price Right?

How much are you willing to give up to be right?

In thousands of hours of executive coaching and in training spokespersons and CEOs in delivering messages, one thing has been consistent.

People in leadership positions, and in relationships, which means pretty much everybody one way or another, will go to any length not to be wrong.

They’ll mess up business deals, wreck marriages and relationships, suffer sleepless nights, and regret years of their careers, all for the sake of being right.

Lazlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google was quoted in a story written for the NY Times by Adam Bryant,

Bock said,

“What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

It’s feeling the sense of responsibility, the sense of ownership, to step in to try to solve any problem — and the humility to step back and embrace the better ideas of others. Your end goal is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.”

And it is not just humility in creating space for others to contribute. It’s intellectual humility. Without humility, you are unable to learn. Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”

They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. … What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’ You need a big ego and small ego in the same person at the same time.”

I think that’s right. But then, I don’t have to be.

Next month, “I didn’t get the e-mail.”